Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sunday Lunch at The Hole in the Wall Cambridge

I have known for some time that the Hole in the Wall does a brilliant Sunday Lunch, it is one of,  our favourite restaurants, possibly even our most favourite, and never disappoints. It has even been voted the best Sunday Lunch in East Anglia by the Observer Food Monthly Awards.

Hole in the Wall Cambridge Sunday Lunch

Anticipating a large roast dinner we skipped the starters (pudding is compulsory) and went straight to mains. I ordered the roast pork with (deep breath) crackling, duck fat roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrot, green vegetables and apple sauce. It was everything a Sunday roast should be - homely and generous but with the finesse you expect from the Hole in the Wall. The potatoes were amazingly crispy, I love the chargrilled top on the cauliflower cheese and the crackling was perfect. I also love the carrot, odd as that sounds, I think it was a confit carrot, or else slow cooked in someway - lovely. The whole thing was topped off with a cider and mustard sauce, a nice change from gravy.
Hole in the Wall Sunday Lunch Cambridge Vegetarian

Mr had the mushroom and leek rarebit with potato rosti and a fried egg. It was a lot smaller than the roast I had, which felt a little odd, but around the same size as their usual main courses. The cheesy leek topping on the mushroom was excellent with the crispy rosti and runny yolk. Another great veggie dish from these guys, they always come up with something a bit different.

The Hole in the Wall Cambridgeshire
Before our mains arrived we were given some bread - beetroot & treacle bread and sourdough. Both excellent, I need to figure out how to make that beetroot bread.

The Hole in the Wall Cambridge Doughnuts

We both went for the, now legendary, doughnuts for pudding - and they've made them bigger! Three airy sugary doughnuts with a rich chocolate dipping sauce and a scoop of ice cream. The pudding menu was very impressive - 5 choices including black pepper & strawberry panna cotta, sticky toffee pudding and salted caramel pot plus more. I could have had a small portion of all of them really, but I understand that isn't something they offer (!)

So, if you're stuck for somewhere to go for Sunday Lunch in Cambridge, and are bored with the usual overcooked pub offerings, head to the Hole in the Wall. It is a little pricier than the usual but you will not be disappointed. We spent £55 for 2 courses each plus a couple of soft drinks each.

The Hole in the Wall
Little Wilbraham, Cambs

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Samosas from Scratch

I love samosas - they are the best Indian snack food but sadly, as popular as they are, they are rarely good. A good samosa should be crispy on the inside and soft and delicately spiced in the middle. The crispy pastry is made from rotli/chapati dough (not filo) with added salt and lemon juice - the dough discs are half cooked before being filled, folded and fried. The traditional Gujarati filling is a potato and pea with garlic, ginger, onion, chilli and turmeric. Coriander seed and cumin is also added.The other common filling you'll find (in meat eating areas) is minced lamb - flavoured in the same way and sometimes with clove and cinnamon.

Allow yourself a few hours in the kitchen, samosas have several steps to them and they are perfect if you want to spend a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. Each step is quite straightforward - as long as you take your time you'll be ok.

Pea & Potato Samosas - makes 15 samosas, easily doubled

Step 1 - Pastry dough

150g chapati flour or plain flour
optional 2 teaspoons of fine semolina (my addition for crispier samosas)
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
boiling water - approx 125ml

Rub together the flour, semolina and oil, til it is all combined. Add in the salt and lemon juice and mix with a fork. Add in half of the water and stir with a fork, add the other half and mix again with the fork. As it starts to come together get in with your hands and knead into a soft but not sticky dough.

Divide into balls, approximately the size of a lime and then roll each out in to a circle. You want the pastry to be fairly thin, about 2mm. Save a couple of small pieces of pastry, to test the temperature of the oil later (or you can use a cube of bread or potato).

Heat a non stick frying pan, or tava, til it is very hot, then turn down to a medium heat.
You can roll out all your pastry circles and lay them out and cook one after another, or roll as you cook - it depends if you can keep an eye on both!

Cook the circles for 30 seconds minute on each side, just enough to lightly colour them. You want the dough to be half cooked, so they are easy to fill and also to fry later. Stack up on a plate as you cook them. Cover with a clean, damp tea towel as you make the filling.

Step 2 - Pea & Potato

3 medium potatoes, diced
100g frozen peas, defrosted
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1/4 green chilli, chopped finely
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of coriander seed, crushed
1/4 teaspoon of tumeric
pinch of salt

Fry the onion til translucent, then add the garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds. Add the potato and stir well - then add in the chilli and the spices along with a pinch of salt. Fry for a few minutes on a medium-high heat, stirring all the time. Then add a splash of water, and cover. Reduce heat to medium/low and cook with the cover on for about 4 minutes. Remove the cover, stir, simmer for a few minutes if you need to reduce the water a little. Switch off the heat, stir in the peas, and leave to cool.

Step 3 - Folding and Filling

Flour and cold water for glue.
Large plate for your finished samosas

Make a glue by combining about 2 tablespoons of flour with half that amount of water, adjust til you get a thick but spreadable glue.

How to Fold a Samosa:
How to Fold a Samosa

Dab glue on to the straight sides of the samosa wrapper, fill with potato filling and then glue the top closed. Check for gaps and dab some glue on to the point and squeeze closed.

At this stage, if you'd like to save the samosas for another time, you can freeze them on a baking tray - once frozen put into a freezer bag. Defrost fully before you come to fry them.

Step 4 - Frying

300ml vegetable oil
medium large saucepan

Add vegetable oil to a medium saucepan and heat on a high heat for a few minutes, then turn down to medium. Test the temperature by adding a small piece of pastry to the oil, if it bubbles and rises to the surface within 10 - 15 seconds the oil is done.

Add about 4-5 samosas to the pan and fry for around 4-5 minutes til deep golden colour. Turn them every minute or so to ensure they cook evenly. Too high heat will cause the pastry to burn and not cook through, a medium high heat will ensure they stay crisp but not oily and cook throughout. Once done, remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Baked Version: I also tried baking some, which turned out nicely, not as flaky but still crispy and crunchy - and of course a little healthier. Brush with oil and bake on a tray in a medium oven for 20 minutes, turning half way through. 

I really hope you make these, you won't be disappointed! I've got 10 of them stashed away in the freezer, a smart move as the first batch disappeared in minutes.

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Monday, 23 September 2013

Lunch at the Pump Street Bakery

A couple of weeks back we were both craving a day off and some sea air, this also coincided with the
purchase of a new (second hand) car so a trip to the coast felt very much the thing to do. We picked Orford/Aldeburgh as we normally do with plans to figure out what all the buttons do in the car on the way there and then grab some lunch at Pump Street Bakery before heading to the beach.

I've been following Pump Street Bakery on Twitter and marvelling over their breads and pastries, and doughnuts (oh the doughnuts) for some time. They are a small family bakery with a focus on real bread, slow food and lots of fantastic sweets. They specialise in sourdough and pastries and also serve Monmouth Coffee made in their La Marzocco coffee machine (called Percy), loose leaf teas and yummy hot chocolate. Impressively they have also just started producing their own bean to bar chocolate.
The cafe area serves lunch, brunch at weekends and you can also stop in anytime for coffee and something sweet. There is a large communal table in the centre of the room, plus a couple of other nooks by the windows to sit by. It's a nice welcoming space which I think would be lovely and cosy in the Winter.

I went for a big mug of 'Real Hot Chocolate' which was delicious, none of that powdery nonsense that you normally get - proper chocolate with foamy milk. Mr went for a flat white, which was made the proper way in a proper flat white sized cup (I'm becoming a bit of coffee geek) and was of course lovely.

The blackboard lists all the food for the day, it had a pleasing number of vegetarian options alongside the meat and fish dishes - with local meats, fish and cheeses noted where applicable. I went for the roast tomato and feta tart - pleasingly square with lots of tomatoey cheesey filling alongside some super fresh salad leaves.

Mr went for the toasted cheese sourdough with onion marmalade - this was cheesey to the extreme, and awesome for it. I am planning on recreating this, with some homemade sourdough.

I always make room for pudding, and you can't go all the way there and not have a doughnut. Mine was filled with rhubarb jam and Mr's with raspberry. Both delicious, light and airy inside and crispy on the outside, and the jams both tasted like the actual fruit. I wanted another three but I had to constrain myself.

I didn't really want to leave, there is so much to try at the bakery and everyone is so friendly and welcoming. There are lots of holiday cottages in the area, and although Suffolk is very close it would be nice to spend more time there to try all the local delights.

You can find the cafe menu here, and follow them on Twitter here. If you're visiting Snape Maltings they also have a little Citroen van called Cedric - where you can also buy their fresh baked goodies.

Orford is a lovely little village, whilst you are there can pop down to Pinneys of Orford after for some fresh fish or something from their smokery.

Pump Street Bakery

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Banana Cardamom Bread

I've made this cakey bread three times now. Something about this recipe required me to become a little obsessed with getting it just right so for the last 3 weekends we've had a banana bread of varying quality in the cake tin.

This is a cakey banana bread, it still has the crumb that a good sponge should, it isn't too dense, but it holds up well and can be spread with jam. The first two versions I made were much too dense - 2 bananas or 4 bananas is too much. 1 banana is just right! Version one had too little cardamom in it (2 pods), version two had too many (6 pods). The magic version had just one banana, and then the crushed seeds of 4 cardamom pods.

I only had bread flour in, which worked fine in this bread, and it is a bread after all. This makes one tall loaf that will cut in to lots of slices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

1 banana - approx 100g
100g softened unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
pinch of salt
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
crushed seeds of 4 cardamom pods
1 tsp baking powder
250g bread flour

Heat your oven to gas mark 3 / fan 170 / electric 180. Mash the banana in a large bowl and then add the butter - mix together well and then stir in the sugar and salt. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing in with each addition. Then add in the vanilla and crushed seeds of cardamom. Sift in your flour and baking powder and fold in carefully.

Bake for around 40 minutes on the middle shelf til golden brown on top and cooked throughout. Leave to cool before removing from the tin and slicing.

You can eat this for breakfast, I reckon, it is totally fine. And I did.

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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Lunch at Poets House, Ely

A few weeks ago we ate somewhere new, Poets House in Ely. A hotel with a restaurant and bar just steps away from the Cathedral in a beautiful old townhouse - named so because a local author used to live there.

I've been hearing lots about it from local bloggers - Sian and Heidi dined there and Miss Sue Flay recently sampled their afternoon tea. Needing somewhere to go with visiting relatives, I decided upon Poets House for a relaxed Saturday lunch.

The main dining room is elegant and beautifully decorated in black, white and grey - very swish indeed. It was reasonably quiet for a Saturday lunchtime, which did mean we had the full attention of the staff. The service was excellent, and our waitress explained the various menu options to us and was on hand for any questions we had.

I spotted an Indian wine on the menu, very intriguing, the sommelier didn't know what it was like, as he hadn't tried it, a little disappointing as far as I am aware from a sommelier - but we ordered it anyway! It was a white wine, Sula Vineyards Viognier from a winemaker based in the small town of Nashik, in the Indian state of Maharashtra. It was excellent, I'm not a much of a wine buff but it was a really nice wine, and great to see some interesting wines on the menus instead of the usual European options.

Wine ordered we proceeded to look through the menus - there are several choices. There is A la Carte, the Set 'House' menu and also the Garden Menu - a special menu based on local produce and all vegetarian. The set menu is really good value, with decent amount of vegetarian options, £22.50 for 2 courses or £25.50 for three courses.

I started with 'Flamed Mackerel' - which came with lime jelly, horseradish cream, little slivers of fennel and radish and a cucumber and lime sauce. The mackerel was so fresh and the skin crispy - the little condiments were great to break through the richness of the fish.  A nice refreshing start!

My main was a mushroom tagliatelle - expertly made fresh pasta with lots of different kinds of mushrooms and parmesan. It also came with a foam, which I hate, I find them totally unnecessary and showy - it didn't add anything, and as it dried it left an odd ring around the dish. No foam please!

Next up was my dessert - simply titled white chocolate parfait with raspberry and caramel popcorn. It was gorgeous - the parfait was rolled in some kind of crispy coating and alongside it was sweet caramelised popcorn, little meringues, freeze dried raspberries and honeycomb. It was a beautiful looking dish and it tasted fantastic - my favourite one of the meal.

My dining companions were similarly happy with their choices - an excellent tomato soup, pan fried seabass, a vegetarian leek and pastry puff and the richest sticky toffee pudding.

Our lunch at Poets House was excellent and full of little surprises - a very well thought out menu. The surroundings are very plush and the staff very attentive. We took our coffee in the bar area which is an indoor/outdoor conservatory style area with one side being floor to ceiling glass. Afternoon teas and bar meals are served here - along with cocktails later on.

I've heard some excellent things about the afternoon tea, and the dinner, so I definitely think it is a place to return to for more treats.

Poets House
St Marys Street

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